“As the Internet of things advances, the very notion of a clear dividing line between reality and virtual reality becomes blurred, sometimes in creative ways.”
~ Geoff Mulgan

My daughter, Abby, and I have differing opinions on books. I love digital. The convenience factor is huge for me. No matter where I am, I can pull out my phone and read my stories. Abby on the other hand, likes the hard copy, dead tree edition. She likes the feel of the pages and loves to look at the cover art whenever she wants (Yes, you can do that with the digital version, but “It’s not the same, Dad!”). Regardless of who is right, though, both are simply means to convey the contents of the book and both work.

When Covid struck, a lot of our networking went virtual. For some of us, this actually worked quite nicely. No drive time. No parking. No limits on distance. No noisy, crowded rooms. The convenience made it nice. For others, that loss of in-person connection was a catastrophe.

Now, while things are returning somewhat to the way they were before, we’ve discovered that they can both work, so long as they achieve the ultimate goal of connecting us to each other. So how can you tell if an online event works as a networking opportunity?

  • The people you want to meet are there. Just like an in-person event, you want to make sure that connecting with other attendees will help you achieve your goals.
  • You have the opportunity to connect. If you can’t interact with the other attendees, then it simply isn’t a networking opportunity. You need at least to have the ability to use the chat window privately. Better if you can use a breakout room for conversation.
  • The other attendees are open to connecting. Not everyone is comfortable interacting at an online event. If they are checking their email instead of participating, then you aren’t going to get the results you want.

Online events can still be opportunities to connect. Just remember that the underlying purpose is to create new relationships. So long as it achieves that goal, the virtual event is a valid addition to your networking repertoire.

So, what’s the best online networking experience you’ve had?

Image credit: IAEA Imagebank, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons